Retirement has been elusive for Anne Bauer, but she keeps trying. The Isle of Palms resident joined the Army Nursing Corps in 1968 after earning her nursing degree. She had plenty of work. The Vietnam War was at its height.
Bauer was eventually transferred to Munich, Germany, promoted to captain, and named head nurse of the intensive care unit at Munich Army Hospital. She left active duty in 1972 to start a family, but continued her career in the private sector before being called up to the Army Reserves prior to Operation Desert Storm.
After the war she returned to civilian life, earned a master's degree in nursing, and was a partner in developing a home healthcare and temporary-nurse staffing agency. From there she moved on to manage a 200-plus physician group practice.
Duty called again in 1998, when she left her lucrative private career to return to the Army Nurse Corps. Now a major, she organized and led three medical missions to South America and attended Command and General Staff College, where she scored top honors in her class and earned the first of her four Army Commendation Medals.
Two years later, Bauer was transferred to Wilmington, Del., to take over a five-state regional nursing program. With the beginning of the current Middle East wars and the global War on Terror, she was assigned to launch the Army's new combat medic program.
Bauer was a lieutenant colonel when she came to the Pentagon in 2007 with the title of medical policy officer, and she was there when issues with wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center surfaced. As the sole medical person at her level, she was assigned to assist in developing the Warrior Transition Units to alleviate the overcrowded conditions in Army hospitals. It was the Army's first major medical policy change since 1947.
With this mission completed, Bauer was promoted to full colonel, awarded the prestigious Legion of Merit, and served as deputy surgeon in the Office of Chief of the Army Reserve until her brief retirement in 2009.
Later that year, she was called out of retirement and back to the Pentagon to lead a complete medical policy overhaul of the U.S. Army Reserves and the Army National Guard. In this capacity, she was appointed chief of staff to Gen. Frederick Franks (ret.). Bauer and her team produced a 700-page report, which addresses medical issues of returning Reserve and National Guard troops. For her work on this project, she was awarded her second Legion of Merit.
During her first posting during Vietnam, she met John Bauer, a wounded officer in her care, just back from his tour. When he was sufficiently recovered, he asked her out for a beer. Thirty minutes into the date, he asked her to marry him. She said yes.
Forty years and three children later, they are still together. One of those children went to The Citadel. While visiting him, John and Anne fell in love with the Charleston area and decided to retire here. For the last three years, they have called the Isle of Palms home. She enjoys her retirement working with the IOP Turtle Team and volunteering in the turtle rehab unit at the S.C. Aquarium.
Today Bauer is doing something completely new. She is running for public office: IOP City Council. If she has any partisan political views, decades of military life have taught her to keep them to herself. And that fits the political culture very well out on the island.
In a wide-ranging 90-minute discussion I recently had with her, she did not condemn or criticize any city council incumbent or candidate, a refreshingly novel approach to politics in these angry times. Indeed, for a person who has seen some of the worst that human beings can do to one another, Anne Bauer is remarkably warm and open.
"My whole life has been about service. [Running for office] is a new kind of service, but the core concepts of leadership are no different. You have a military community, and you have a civilian community," she says, adding that they both require leadership and vision. She is not bashful in saying she thinks her military experience will serve her adopted town well.
The Isle of Palms is a town in transition, with old-guard residents reluctantly relinquishing power to a wave of new residents and powerful interests who want to encourage ever more tourism and development regardless of their effect on the island's culture and environment. Whoever is elected to council in November will have some perilous political crosscurrents to navigate. Isle of Palms would be lucky to have a steady hand like Anne Bauer's on the rudder at city council.